Over the weekend I caught up with a friend who gave birth to her first baby a few months ago. She was telling me about the birth – how she had planned to avoid having an epidural but simply couldn’t take the pain anymore and how, having undergone an epidural, she had no physical feeling as she was giving birth. What she also didn’t feel was the huge amount of trauma and tissue damage that was occurring during the end stage of her labour, which she was unprepared for and hugely embarrassed about. She told me that this form of ‘birth trauma’ was something she hadn’t even contemplated. “No one talks about it, it’s all about the joy that childbirth and having babies brings”, she said to me.
Professor Dietz, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the University of Sydney’s medical school, says that only about 25 per cent of women get a non-traumatic normal vaginal delivery that did not do serious damage to their pelvic floor or their anal sphincter.
Elizabeth Skinner, midwife and co-author of ‘Psychological consequences of traumatic vaginal birth’, says that the physical and psychological impact of these injuries on mothers can be incredibly disabling and that women “just put up with this ‘hidden injury’ as they are too embarrassed to discuss symptoms with clinicians who frequently do not believe them”.
In order for women to make proper informed choices about the way in which they give birth, women need to be fully informed about the risks that can occur with a vaginal delivery.
Skinner says that “Idealised images of the birth process without accurate education and consent can cause poor long-term clinical and mental outcomes”.
Some research suggests that where women describe their experiences of childbirth as being “traumatic” (relating to pain, fear, feelings of a loss of control) there is an increase in risk of postnatal depression, but also for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Of course, there are many reasons why women experience poor mental health and post natal depression after giving birth. The same study showed that there are several other perinatal complications which create a higher risk of postnatal depression, including: pre-eclampsia, hospitalisation during a pregnancy, emergency caesarean section, suspicion of foetal distress, and hospital admission of the baby.
There are many ways to deliver a baby and I am not against women having a vaginal birth or any other of their preference. However, expecting mothers need all of the facts. Uncensored information about the risks and difficulties that can arise during childbirth is necessary, so that women can make fully informed choices about what might happen and have control over their bodies. This can only occur when there is open and frank discussion between clinicians and their patients and when we are prepared to acknowledge the birth trauma that can occur during a vaginal delivery and the options available to reduce the extent of such trauma.
Upcoming Event: Natural Birth – What women need to know
8 November 2017 – Charlestown Bowling Club NSW
There’s a “big push” from NSW Health to promote vaginal birth over c-sections. But are women getting the full story when it comes to the possible risks associated with vaginal deliveries?
Join us on Wednesday 8 November learn more – Call 02 4929 3995 to book a place or click below to book online.